The Chief Joseph Highway Butterfly Count will take place Saturday, starting 9:30 a.m.
The meeting place is the large pullout 11.5 miles from the turn off US 120, about a mile past the Northwest College Field Camp, on the right side, and about a mile from the top of Dead Indian Pass.
If the weather is bad the count will be Sunday, Aug. 7.
“Butterflies are kind of like a canary in a mine, they show us environmental changes quickly,” said organizer Bobbie Holder, horticulturist with the UW Extension Service. “The count is important because we don’t know how many butterflies, or what kinds, are there without going through this process.
“If we don’t know what’s there, we can’t take care of it and then we won’t love it.”
At 9:30 a.m., Holder will go over the day’s plan with the volunteers and divide them into two groups, one to go north and the other south. Each group will count from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for a total of six hours, the amount of time needed for a count to count. She will provide nets to the volunteers, who don’t have to have any special skills.
“They need to be able to move over the land and catch butterflies, and that’s really all,” she said.
When participants catch a butterfly, they’ll bring it to a person who can identify it and then let it go.
“It’s catch and release; we don’t want to hurt the butterflies,” Holder explained.
Typically, about 20 volunteers show up.
“That’s a great number. If there are too many catchers, I can’t keep up with identification,” she said.
The groups will count on the way out, but when they walk back will count only new species. The average number of different types is about 30, except in drought years when there are fewer, she said.
The count will be the 11th that Holder’s organized. There are only two others in Wyoming, one in Yellowstone National Park and the other at Red Canyon.
People should bring water, lunch, snacks, sun screen – “all of stuff you need to be out in the mountains for three hours, “ she said, adding that bear spray is “not a bad idea”
At 1 p.m., the counters will hand in their notes and eat lunch. From 2 p.m. to about 4 p.m., Holder said she’ll will deliver a “fairly simple class about relationship between butterflies and plants.
“I just want people to learn to enjoy butterflies and care.”